The rain forests are the major sources of food for the ancestors of all ethic groups in Xishuangbanna. A ballad of the Dai folks described the situation when their ancestors tried to find food:
"(they) dig roots, pick up leaves, gnaw reels, eat banana flowers, and fish for
mosses". In modern times, though the development of agricultural technologies has developed to the extent that all minorities could rely on agriculture for their major foods, all the ethic groups still pick up and dig various foods from the forest, including hundreds of starch, vegetables and oil plants, as the supplementary food of their daily life and for the purpose of satisfying their traditional tastes. Andaman mombin is rich in vitamin C contents; it has a sweet aftertaste, and an important raw material for making sauces used by the Dai folks. The young leaves of Acacia
pennata has special aromas, and is a necessary material for frying and steaming many traditional menus;
Eryngium foetidum has a special fragrant smell and is an important ingredient in cooking meats. Since all minorities created their own special processing and cooking methods, many special flavors come into being. Particularly the special flavors of the Dai minority, they are liked by all Chinese and foreign tourists to Xishuangbanna.
Among numerous foods made with wild plants, those especially loved by tourists are the leaves of trees. The pickled sour menus from spider tree is especially tasty; the young leaves of Acacia
pennata, if fried with eggs, would become a famous dish; the young leaves of eared strangler fig and
Ficus callosa Willd are easily cooked and have special flavors; the tip of fishtail palm is called sweet shoots, and is a rare mountain food when fried with meat or for making soup. It is said that the old folks of the Dai people are quite healthy and they all enjoy a long life, the Dai girls are slender and light-footed, and these have close relations with their eating young tree leaves and flowers.
Plant with Eligible Leaves
-Eared Strangler Fig
Plant with Eligible Flowers
When we come to eligible flowers, I must say that it is quite popular in
Xishuangbanna. Various plants in the rain forests provide advantageous conditions for the local folks to eat flowers. The eligible flowers are many, mainly include: malay
bushbeech, Mayodendron igneum, white frangipani,Musa sapientum and
Gardenia sootepense etc. People of the inland know very little about these flowers, and the local minority folks have special treatments on them before eating. The eligible flowers provide people with abundant amino acid, including farina; they not only have special flavors, they are also healthy foods, and are important parts of their traditional culture. It is understandable that some botanists even call such traditions
"the culture of eating flowers".